What the Mentally Ill Look Like

There’s always been the stereotype of the madman, with wild hair and wild eyes. He hasn’t bathed in a while, and never discovered the joys of deodorant. Flecks of spittle adorn his face, and he is all in all a sad specimen.

There’s the crazy cat lady, who replaces all her human relationships with the love of her fourteen cats. She’s a bit unstable, she smells funny (what is it with mental health stereotypes and smelling bad?), and she doesn’t know how to exist in human society.

There’s the quiet shut-in. No-one ever sees them, or knows anything about them. The Boo Radleys of this world, who rarely come out of the shadows.

All this misses something. Something like a fifth of New Zealanders will experience mental illness in their life. And one in five of us are not madmen, or crazy cat ladies, or shut ins.

Most people with mental illness look normal. They act normal. Because they are normal. They are just like you. They’re just like diabetics – normal people with an illness.

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